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Liberation: The Unmasked Horror


"The smell of death overwhelmed us even before we passed through the stockade....More than 3,200 naked, emaciated bodies had been flung into shallow graves. Others lay in the streets where they had fallen. Lice crawled over the yellowed skin of their sharp, bony frames." Gen. Omar Bradley, U.S. Army, On remembering seeing Ohrdruf, April 12, 1945

Bulldozer, driven by a British soldier, shoves corpses into a mass grave at Bergen-Belsen in 1945. CL:Imperial War Museum. London

Liberated prisoners at Ebensee, May 7, 1945. CL:U.S. Army Signal Corps
By May 1945, the war in Europe had ended. The liberators reached the camps, and the brutality of Nazi crimes was visible to the shocked Allied troops. "It was like stepping into the dark ages," said one stunned American sergeant. Only 250,000 prisoners were liberated from the camps. Tragically, twice that number died in the last months before liberation. The SS evacuated the camps almost within sight of the advancing Allies. Mercilessly, they marched their prisoners to the interior of the collapsing Reich. Those who lagged behind or fell were shot. Those who survived evacuation arrived in overcrowded camps without food, water or facilities. Those who had any strength remaining were worked to death building futile fortifications to defend the Reich. Over 400,000 died in these last days.
Former camp personnel (soldiers, SS men, and kapos) captured at Bergen-Belsen, April 1945. CL:Imperial

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